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Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Cozy Feeling of Murder and Mayhem

Let’s face it. The only place where you can find humor in murder and mayhem is in a cozy mystery. Strictly speaking, there are many types of mysteries. But I’m referring to the sort that displays humorous antics and quirky characters. Jumble these together with a body, a collage of suspects, and you have yourself a cozy mystery.

For years I’ve been writing suspense-laden material whether a historical novel or a contemporary romance—they’ve all contained an element of suspense. But right now, I’m making the big leap from suspense to a cozy mystery. You’d think it would be an easy transition.

Not so. It’s a completely different animal. There’s a tremendous learning curve.

For one, adding the type of humor required caught me off guard. When you’ve been writing serious tension into every scene and your characters are racing against the clock before they all die, it’s not so easy to switch gears.

Cozies have a feel to them. Understanding that feel is the first step in understanding how to write them. But then again, every genre probably has a specific feel. Read the two following excerpts from two different novels and see if you can identify the cozy mystery.

Magnolia was applauding the performance now as she helped me to a seat and scooted in beside me. “Ivy, that was marvelous! Is that part of the show? The audience will love it. But how did they ever train the pig to do that?”

I decided I hadn’t the energy just then to tell her that the pig caper wasn’t part of the regular performance. Getting run over by the duet of an escaping pig and an angry Historical Society lady is somewhat debilitating for an LOL (Little old lady).

The next thing that went wrong was Ben Simpson’s performance as Will Rogers. He got through the monologue itself okay, sitting on his tall stool, but as he was getting off the stool something in his back locked up and he couldn’t straighten up. And there the poor guy stood, looking rather like a bent tooth pick.

The next excerpt:

“Now what would you call me?”

She could almost feel his gaze taking in everything from the wild curly hair that tumbled down across her shoulders and back, nearly reaching her waist, to the soft-pink silk blouse and flowered skirt, to the dainty leather sandals on bare feet and toes tipped in bright pink polish. “Delightful-looking decked-out demagogue of deceit.”

She laughed again, shaking her head. “We’re making headway.”

He instantly sobered. “Don’t count on it. I’m not blind, but I’m not stupid, either.”

The smile disappeard. “Meaning?”

“Meaning I’m not oblivious to a pretty woman, but I don’t let any woman lead me around by the nose. You may be attractive but I’m not going to get all gooey-eyed over you just because you flash that smile and bat those eyelashes.

Okay, can you feel which one is the cozy mystery with nothing else but one scene?
The first excerpt was from Lorena McCourtney’s Stranded, An Ivy Malone Mystery. Her character, Ivy Malone, considers herself invisible because as a little old lady (LOL) nobody sees her. That’s part of the character’s quirkiness and yes it is the cozy mystery.

The second excerpt, Wanda Dyson’s Abduction. Each type of story has it’s own feel despite the differences in author’s voice. I hope you can tell that it doesn’t have the cozy mystery feel like Stranded, from the first excerpt.

Your clue that the opening excerpt is the cozy was probably the first person. Next, the humorous situation and third, word choice. All of those things work together to create the feeling for what’s termed a “cozy” mystery.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts on what gives a cozy it’s peculiar feel.



Blogger angela said...

The most recent Cozies I've read are the Wedding Planner Mysteries by Deborah Donnelly. Her's have a chick-lit feel to them. And in the tense parts, like when the main character hides in the water off the dock while the bad guys ransack her boathouse, she comes out describing herself like a drowned rat--no terror there.

My favorite romantic suspense is SWEET REVENGE by Nora Roberts, though I was disappointed with the ending. The characters were more spyish than quirky.

I'm going to be starting my first romantic suspense soon, so I know I'll have a lot to learn. Feel free to pass along any pointers;)

4:45 PM  
Blogger Becky said...

Well, the LOL tipped me off that the first one was an Ivy Malone mystery, so I knew. Which means that the "feel" is not limited to the genre but extends to the individual author. I suppose that's just another way of saying "voice," isn't it.


10:19 AM  
Blogger Beth Goddard said...

Thanks Angela! Will do. Be sure to visit KMIS often-I know you'll learn a lot:)


2:58 PM  

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